CarNerd: Ball Joint Replacement
Whether you snapped a ball joint off-roading or the bugger is simply rusting away, here is a laid out, simple to follow, explanation of how to save a buck by replacing it yourself.
The model for today is a lovely 97' Mercury Sable that has seen better days. The left driver's side ball joint is rusty to the point that it may break. This bugger was discovered because, as the ball joint rusted, an overly loud and increasingly annoying squeak was heard from the front end when the stirring wheel was turned at slower speeds.
- Ball Joint Press, (can be rented at most auto parts stores)
- Impact Gun(aka air gun)
- Air Hammer
- Ball Joint Separator, (a.k.a pickle fork)
- Pry Bar
- Impact Sockets
- PB Blaster
- Jack and Jack Stands
1. Brake Caliper and Rotor Removal
Unbolt the caliper and use an old coat hanger or stiff wire to hold the caliper in place. Do not let the caliper hang by the brake line as this can cause damage to the brake hose.
Remove the brake rotor. If the brake rotor is stuck, use a plastic headed hammer(or rubber mallet) and hit the rotor until rotor comes free. A metal hammer is not recommended because you will cause damage to the rotor. If the rotor is overly scored or rusted, you may want to think about changing it.
2. Tie Rod Removal
Before you go any further, you are going to want to separate the tie rod from the stirring knuckle. To do this, take the pickle fork and wedge it in-between the tie rod and the stirring knuckle. Tap the end of the pickle fork with a hammer to further wedge it into the joint.
Remove the nut that holds the tie rod to the stirring knuckle. As you loosen the nut, tap the pickle fork in further after every few turns of the nut to prevent the tie rod from spinning.This process will separate the tie rod from the stirring knuckle.
3. CV Axle Removal
In the center of your wheel hub, you will notice a very large nut. Loosen and remove said nut.
Depending on the vehicle the nut may be held in place by a Cotter Pin. If your car has a Cotter Pin holding the nut, remove the Cotter Pin completely before removing the nut.
Once the nut is removed, grab the CV Axle from behind the stirring knuckle and push towards the center of the car. This should force the CV Axle out of the wheel hub.
If this does not work, you may have to tap on the end of the CV Axle with a plastic headed hammer or rubber mallet to force it out.
4. Separation of Ball Joint from Steering Knuckle
Once the CV Axle has been removed, unbolt the ball joint, again check for a cotter pin, then place the pickled fork in between the steering knuckle and the lower control arm. Hit the pickled fork with a hammer to wedge it between. Continue hitting the pickled fork with a hammer until it separates the joint, or an air hammer can be used to wedge the pickled fork between the two.
*Note: For some cars, the ball joint and the control arm is a single unit, and must be replaced together; especially with modern cars. If so, press work is not required.
5. Removing Steering Knuckle from Strut Tower
At the bottom of the strut tower, there is a through bolt, this bolt pinches the steering knuckle onto the bottom of the strut, this needs to be carefully removed.
Once the bolt(s) is removed, tap on the steering knuckle with a hammer to remove it from the strut. Once the knuckle has been removed from the strut, you should be able to remove the knuckle from the car.
Ball Joint Kits
- OTC 7249 - Ball Joint Service Kit | O'Reilly Auto Parts
OTC - Ball Joint Service Kit. Part #: 7249. UPC: 731413000935. Removes And Installs Press Fit Parts. Brand: OTC. Manufacturer: OTC.
- Harbor Freight Ball Joint Service Kit
Find this ball joint service kit for less at Harbor Freight. Service your vehicle's ball joints and more with this all in one ball joint service kit.
- Advance Auto Parts Ball Joint Kit
Astro Pnuematics Ball Joint and 4 Wheel Drive Service Tool Kit AST7865
- Autozone Ball Joint Kit
OEM/Ball joint/U-Joint press set with 4WD service set
Press Work-Ball Joint
You can either take your steering knuckle to a machine shop and have the old ball joint pressed out and the new one pressed in for a fee, or you can rent a ball joint press kit and do it yourself.
Every car is different, thus make sure that you follow the directions in the kit for your car if you decide to do it yourself.
*Note: Always use the new hardware that is supplied with the new ball joint.
**Note: Where ever a cotter pin has been removed, make sure to use a new pin unless the pin is in excellent shape.
For reassembly, do the reverse of removal.